Farmersville Mayor Bryon Wiebold intended to conduct a question-and-answer session about an upcoming election on the future of the city’s economic development strategy.
What he got, though, was a roomful of angry and seemingly confused residents upset over what they perceive as a power grab by City Hall. The meeting occurred Friday, April 21 at Collin College-Farmersville’s campus library.
A set of propositions is asking voters to decide on the formation of a Municipal Development District (MDD) and on whether to disband the city’s current Community Development Council (4B).
Both propositions must be approved to shift a one half of 1% sales tax levy from 4B use to MDD. Successful passage of MDD formation is contigent upon both measures passing at the polls.
Wiebold ended up fending off angry inquiries about the creation of a home rule government for Farmersville last year and whether expansion of the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction would result in tax increases for those who live within the ETJ but outside the city limits.
Wiebold explained ETJ residents would not see a tax increase.
The mayor, who was shouted down several times by residents who packed the library, explained that the home rule charter that voters approved in May 2022 expands the ETJ from one-half mile outside the city limits to one mile. The MDD would allow the city to levy a one half of 1% sales tax for economic development purposes, taking over the duties now being done by 4B.
“Home rule means the city lacks authority to approve permits in the ETJ,” Wiebold said in seeking to explain the limitations contained within the home rule charter, adding that “the only way we can enlarge the ETJ is if the city grows.”
After the meeting, Wiebold told the Times that “most of the complaints came from those who live in Merit and Celeste. The Farmersville opponents of what we are trying to do have been quiet.” He said “the confusion appears to be over the MDD and the ETJ. They are separate issues.”
When the meeting commenced, Wiebold, along with Councilmen Mike Henry and Terry Williams, spoke to small groups of residents, prompting a Merit resident, Paula Stout, to lead a chant of “let’s talk!” that many in the crowd picked up. Wiebold then hooked up a microphone and spoke to the entire crowd.
The election, which occurs May 6, will allow residents living within the ETJ as well as those living within the Farmersville city limits to vote on whether to approve the MDD; the second measure, disbanding the 4B board, will be decided only by voters who live within the Farmersville limits.
If voters approve the MDD, the City Council would appoint its five members to two-year terms. Three MDD members must live within the city limits, while the other two would live within the ETJ. Early voting for the election started on Monday, April 24 and concludes May 2.
The issue of annexation was another hot topic on the minds of residents attending the Collin College-Farmersville meeting. Some residents expressed concern that the city would engage in a land grab, which prompted Wiebold to remind them that the 2017 Texas Legislature approved a law that makes all annexation “consensual” between cities and affected property owners. In addition, the mayor reminded attendees that the 2019 Legislature affirmed the 2017 legislative session’s approval.
Another point of contention centered on the city’s recent annexation of the Chaparral Trail from Merit to Celeste. Wiebold said the city was able to obtain $1 million in grants from Hunt County to help the city pay for trail maintenance and upkeep, adding that 4B was able to provide $50,000 in grant funds as well.
Wiebold received repeated challenges by those who live within the ETJ that the city was trying to sneak the MDD proposal past them, suggesting they should have been allowed to vote on the home rule matter a year ago.
“Home rule is a city issue,” he said. “Those who live outside the city limits were not allowed to vote on it — that’s state law.”
Wiebold also received a challenge from a resident who wondered how the city arrived at its 5,000 “inhabitant” threshold that the state requires to allow the city to conduct a home rule charter election. She noted that the 2020 Census places Farmersville’s population about 1,200 residents fewer than the legal minimum limit. Wiebold said the city calculated the 5,000-inhabitant figure based on the number of water meters listed within the city.
Wiebold said the city’s formula was approved by the state.
“We’re going to keep educating the public on what we are trying to achieve,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass… well, the majority rules.”
By John Kanelis. • [email protected]
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